It’s been a year since Nhlanhla Nene was axed as finance minister. The seismic four days that followed laid bare a new trend in corruption: state capture. 2016 has been the year of state capture, where private interests began to subsume public power. The
December 9 2015 is a typical government Wednesday towards the end of the year – it’s balmy and holidays beckon. A Cabinet meeting is held to tie up loose ends. On top of the usual list of high government business is the announcement that South Africa will pursue nuclear power, but subject to affordability and feasibility studies. It is a pre-Christmas compromise between those who want full nuclear and those who think the spend will bankrupt the country.
Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene is present at the meeting, which stretches into the early afternoon. He leaves with his colleagues from Cabinet. It is, to all intents and purposes, a normal Cabinet meeting.
At 5.15pm, a senior official in the Treasury’s phone beeps. A WhatsApp message: The presidency is looking for Nene. At 18h10, another message: The presidency is looking for deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas.
Two hours later, Nene is history. Jonas is acting minister. Later, Jonas would reveal that Nene’s axing was no surprise to him as he had been offered his principal’s job for R600 000 cash and R600 million more to be paid, if he did as Ajay Gupta – the family patriarch at the centre of what happened in December last year – told him.
Anecdotes say that as he sat outside President Jacob Zuma’s office, Nene saw Zuma’s chief of staff, Lakela Kaunda, prepare the media statement informing the public of his removal. Nene had heard rumours of his end and was not shocked.
Nene is replaced by a minister whose first name is unclear to an incredulous nation when the news breaks later that Wednesday evening. Is he David, Desmond or Des van Rooyen?
It’s Des, says a parliamentary backbencher who was mayor of the Merafong municipality when it went up in flames and ignited a national boundary crisis as residents refused incorporation into North West. Now it’s the markets that are in flames in parts of the world where they are still open and the rand tanks on the news of the putsch of Nene.
‘WE’VE TAKEN CHARGE’
To understand state capture, it is necessary to go back to an email of 2015, emanating from the address of Dudu Myeni, which alleges a massive white conspiracy hatched by apartheid business barons like the Rupert and Oppenheimer families, who have allegedly taken over National Treasury